NYC braces for expected Trump court appearance in fraud trial

New York officials were gearing up Sunday for Donald Trump’s potential touchdown in lower Manhattan on the eve of his mammoth fraud trial.

Less than 24 hours before opening arguments were set to begin in state Attorney General Letitia James’ case against the former president, his adult sons and top executives, barriers had been installed around the 60 Centre St. courthouse where proceedings will take place and the whole of Foley Square.

The state Office of Court Administration was coordinating with the Secret Service, the NYPD, and the U.S. Marshals Service on Sunday afternoon, a law enforcement source told the Daily News.

The all-hands-on-deck meeting came after Trump earlier this week announced his intention to attend the AG trial. He revealed his plans in his unrelated lawsuit against Michael Cohen in Florida. Miami Federal Judge Edwin Torres on Friday granted Trump’s request to push back a West Palm Beach deposition with Cohen’s lawyer slated for Tuesday so Trump could be in New York.

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Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen leaves the district attorney’s office after completing his testimony before a grand jury on March 15. (Getty images)

Trump’s plans came as a surprise, since he hasn’t attended any hearings in the AG case or during the years-long investigation that preceded it. And he’s not legally required to attend the nonjury trial that Judge Arthur Engoron will preside over, whom Trump has aggressively gone after online. He’ll come face to face for the first time with the judge he last week called “a Deranged, Trump Hating Judge, who RAILROADED this FAKE CASE.”

Trump told the judge in the Cohen case that he’d had a change of heart about attending the AG trial after a stunning decision by Engoron last week that “materially altered the landscape,” arguing it “was imperative that he attend his New York trial in person,” the judge’s Friday order noted.

Engoron’s ruling found Trump liable — the civil court equivalent of guilty — on the AG’s top fraud claim and ordered the cancellation of all Trump-owned and controlled business certificates in New York, marking a devastating blow to his future business prospects in the state.

The summary judgment ruling, which was based only on evidence Trump doesn’t dispute, found he inflated his net worth by up to $2.2 billion some years between 2011 and 2021 by grossly exaggerating the value of Trump Organization assets like his Mar-a-Lago, Fla., estate and Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. By doing so, the Trump Organization illegally reaped more fruitful loans and better insurance terms, the judge found.

Engoron will consider the AG’s remaining six claims at the trial. James is still seeking $250 million in ill-gotten gains, to permanently bar Trump and his adult sons and executives from heading a New York corporation and other remedies.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the California GOP Fall convention on September 29, 2023 in Anaheim, California. (Getty Images)

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Trump speaks at the California GOP Fall convention on Friday in Anaheim, Calif. (Getty Images)

James says evidence at the trial will show Trump ballooned his worth by as much as $3.6 billion. She’s planning to call Trump, his sons Eric and Don Jr., his daughter Ivanka and a bevy of Trump Organization execs to the witness stand toward the end of the monthslong trial. The AG plans to call Donald Bender, from the company’s former accounting firm, Mazars, as the first witness after openings on Monday. James is expected to be at the trial.

Trump put himself on his witness list, along with more than 100 people. His lawyers have argued that his “genius” business habits were standard in New York real estate deals and that his alleged offenses had no victims, claiming the banks and lenders made money.

The former president’s trial plans were met with some skepticism despite the frenzy. He similarly said he’d come to E. Jean Carroll’s civil case against him in May, but he never showed up. The jury in that case found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll in a Midtown dressing room in 1996 and defaming her after she came forward. He’ll go on trial again with Carroll in January for other defamation claims.

Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba declined to comment when reached by The News on Sunday. His lawyer Chris Kise did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked for comment, the AG’s office said, “We are ready for trial and look forward to presenting the rest of our case.”

Trump, the current Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential election, faces four criminal cases and a slew of lawsuits. He denies all allegations.

Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen declined to comment.

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